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At the age of 48, Jackie Allan found herself in a very unhappy place. Now in her 50s, here Jackie shares her story of how she set herself this fitness goal to turn her life around and what she did to get there. A mix of sweat and tears – and shedloads of determination – Jackie also distils the lessons she learnt along the way in five helpful pieces of advice for others who want to make a radical change in their lives or reach a particular goal. Whether it’s health or something else like a career change, this advice can be applied to many areas of life.
“At the age of 48, I was extremely overweight and very unhappy. While I’m one of these people who has lots of friends, I was just so unhappy within myself. I was drinking a bottle of red wine, at least, every evening on my own. I was two years from 50 and I thought I just have to change my life, I’ve got to seriously do something. And I thought, I’ve got to be fit at 50.
All I could think was that I wanted to step out of my comfort zone. Those were the words that resonated with me. So, I literally just Googled ‘step out of your comfort zone’ and low and behold, Kobox and Shane Collins, the founder, who I'd never heard of, popped up. And I thought right, I’m going to Kobox in Chelsea. So, I booked the introduction, and off I went.
I was the oldest and I was the most overweight at the gym and I literally couldn't do anything. But I thought, I'm going to make myself accountable, I’m going to start an Instagram page purely about my journey. I started the Instagram page to keep me accountable to doing something every day.
I remember that first day so vividly. I was so scared. I was so nervous. I couldn’t do anything. I realised that basically, I was pretty shit. And hand on my heart, I think every instructor at Kobox has seen me cry at some point.
But I thought, no, get back up and go again tomorrow. And for some reason, I don’t know why, all of the instructors saw something in me – they could see what I couldn’t see. They just got me, and they told me that I could do this. And I remember thinking, I so can’t. After a long time, a lot of tears, frustration and a lot of pain, I realised, oh my god I started to be able to do things. And eventually, I became fit at 50. I reached the goal.
Now, I’m a different person. I’m full of beans; I’m energetic; I’m positive; I started to wear shorts at the age of 50. Everything about my journey has been life-changing. Punching that bag is the greatest feeling; I highly recommend it! You can have the worst day and it just releases something. When I’m not at work I tend to go six times a week. The lights go off, the music comes on and I’m ready. Its 45 minutes of pure hell but you come out feeling so good.
I have tears welling up thinking about this, but the battle that I found the hardest to reach, and it literally shames me to say this, was that I could not put down that glass of wine. I physically couldn’t do it. And I wanted to. I wanted to so badly. On Christmas Day last year I had a glass of prosecco in front of me and… I put it down. In that moment, I said I’m not going to pick up a glass for a whole year. It’s now October and I haven’t had a drink. I just couldn’t let myself down.
I’ve come so far. I’ve now got confidence to try different things such as kickboxing and crossfit. It’s such a powerful thing in your 50s to be able to try something new. In the beginning, I could only go to Kobox. I wouldn’t go anywhere else. Since, I’ve started kickboxing at Circle 8, I go to Buddhabox, I’ve just done amazing things.
One of the most random things that has happened to me on this journey is that people started to follow this overweight, frumpy woman – me – on Instagram. I’ve also been featured in Women's Health as an inspiring female, and I’ve also been part of a campaign for Box Raw, “My Why”, as their first non-model or actress to feature to show how boxing changed my life. It kind of blows my mind.
I wanted to change my life, and I did. Now I feel so passionately about showing other women and men that are just too scared to walk through that door, that they can do this. And seriously, starting is the hardest part. It doesn’t matter what any expert advises, you just need to walk in that door. Walking through that door is so hard. But once you do, you’re 90% there.
I knew that I had to change my life. So, I kept saying to myself, come on, get up, put your leggings on and walk in the door. Prove that you can do it! Despite what you think, no one’s looking at you judging you, no one cares. What I found is that people were actually really supportive.
To keep myself accountable to the journey and to reach my goal, and to ensure I did something every day, I started my Instagram page, @jackieallan1969 to document my journey. To my surprise, people started to follow me.
Also, for me it was pure need, I was not in a good place and I knew I couldn’t go back to that person I was at 48. I know it sounds cliched, but I can see her, and that image keeps me going as I don’t want to go back. And I wanted to conquer the red wine so badly. I think it was the need to win. It was the final thing that came into place and it was the hardest thing. I think boxing did become my therapy. I just punched. It’s hard though but I did it. And I’m not going back.
Some people ask me what keeps me going and it’s that I just don’t want to see that unhappy 48-year-old again. It’s not about 52 and looking 20. I’m proud to look in my 50s. I’m look bloody good now that I am 52 and I’m proud of that.
So, just embrace your age. Be proud. We are a formidable community. Gyms are sort of ignoring over-50s but we have the most disposable income to spend, our children have grown up, we can fit fitness it in during our free time. I think gyms and the fitness industry need to better tap into this demographic. And fitness-wear brands too. I wear Sweaty Betty. Now, if you look at that brand, what 20-year-olds can afford to buy it? But who do they constantly have in their advertising? Brands need to realise this. I think there’s a rise of the over-50s coming.
Remember, embrace your age. Don’t let age be a barrier. At first, I was scared how people would perceive me. I knew I was the un-fittest. I knew I was the most overweight. Hand on my heart, I found the young people embrace me. The amount of people that have said to me, my dad comes to the gym because of you. Or my mum came and did a class because I told her about you.
Or in my case, it feels like they found me. I’d never heard of Kobox. It’s a very cool and trendy gym and it’s lovely and modern. And there’s beautiful people there, but there’s beautiful people everywhere. And then there’s people like me. They got me. I think we literally found each other.
The support from other people and the community around me was one of the big reasons that I could keep going.
Don’t be scared. It is scary to get started, but just walk through the door. You will cry. You will feel like you’re useless, but you will win. It just takes time.
If I could impart one piece of advice, it would seriously be to just walk through the door. It’s the hardest part. But it’s so worthwhile. Just do it. I look back and I am proud of myself. I would love to meet my 48-year-old self and give her a big hug and say you bloody did it and you did it well.
Book the classes in advance. These days if you don’t cancel classes within 12 hours, you’ll lose the money. So, I would book all my classes in advance and then go as I didn’t want to waste the money.
This sounds funny, but I actually made a timetable. Usually a week before I would pre-book all of my classes. So, each week, I know exactly what classes I’m going to and exactly what time. Unless something huge comes up, I do not defer from that. Unless, it was Vogue magazine and Anna Wintour calling, I would go to the class.
Follow Jackie’s journey on Instagram here.